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  by News Canada

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  (NC)—For many Canadians who have only dreamt of buying a home, it can now become a reality. While the actual dream may differ—a house with a big back yard for gardening, or a condo in the sky with a great view of the city—buying any home can be an important step for couples building a life together, or for singles looking for a bit of security. Home ownership often represents the largest investment in their lives, leaving some first-time buyers asking "where do I begin?"

The best starting point is with your finances. Before you scour through listings or attend open houses, consider advice from your financial planner or banking consultant to determine how much you can borrow and what options are available to you.

A major stumbling block for many first-time buyers is the down payment. Even though you might feel ready to juggle a mortgage payment and other monthly bills, your savings account might not be enough to secure your new home.

Your financial planner can help you find additional sources of cash, including your RRSP, or provincial savings programs such as the Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan. Since conventional mortgages require a minimum of a 25 per cent down payment, many new homebuyers opt for a high-ratio mortgage, where they pay a lower percentage of the purchase price.

One unique financing option, enjoyed in Australia and the UK is the flexible mortgage account. Combining the homeowner's mortgage, loans and chequing and savings accounts, it results in lower interest charges and considerable savings in interest costs. Flexible mortgage accounts differ from other debt consolidation products in the way they put the homeowner's income to work.
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